Rank My Ranks – Halloween Edition – 4.1 – Do You Like Scary Movies?

We have come to the final hour of this Halloween Edition of Rank My Ranks between Michael and I.

Where we are going ahead to list out our top ten twenty twenty-fucking-five horror movies out of all the many horror films we’ve seen.

Granted, if I’m being frank, I am so tired and out of it that I can’t possibly write a full intro to this and so excited about presenting our lists that I want to get right out to it. Mike and I will be presenting our ranks between 25-11 each where we remark on each others’ block of runner-ups altogether rather than movie by movie (because who wants to read my blather for a whole 50 entries) BUT… then we will be going one by one on each of our top tens to present our newfound Top Ten Horror Movies We’ve Seen…

And now cut right to the chase… STinG’s comments in blue Mike’s in red

Here we go!

STinG’s 25-11 Bitch-and-a-Half Runner-ups

25. House on Haunted Hill (1959/dir. William Castle/USA)
24. The Evil Dead (1981/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
23. Ravenous (1999/dir. Antonia Bird/USA)
22. The Descent (2005/dir. Neil Marshall/UK)
21. Black Sunday (1960/dir. Mario Bava/Italy)
20. Eyes Without a Face (1960/dir. Georges Franju/France & Italy)
19. The Thing (1982/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
18. Alien (1979/dir. Ridley Scott/USA)
17. The Phantom of the Opera (1925/dir. Rupert Julian/USA)
16. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935/dir. James Whale/USA)
15. Evil Dead II (1987/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
14. Don’t Look Now (1973/dir. Nicholas Roeg/UK & Italy)
13. Dawn of the Dead (1978/dir. George Romero/USA)
12. Halloween (1978/dir. John Carpenter/USA)
11. Cat People (1942/dir. Jacques Tourneur/prod. Val Lewton/USA)

A lot of these are on my list. I’ve talked about them there, so I’ll just mention the ones that aren’t. Don’t Look Now was a really disappointing for me. It had the potential to be a masterpiece, but sloppy, uneven editing and unnecessary scenes really brought it down for me. We didn’t need to know anything about that guy who owned the restaurant in the hotel, fuck that guy. Everything else was so masterfully done and that ending was beautifully ironic.

I totally agree with calling the editing of Don’t Look Now uneven and even sloppy, but that’s exactly why I loved the movie so much. Obviously it is mainly a movie about grief on a thematic level, but narrative-wise, the central concept is how Donald Sutherland’s character is clairvoyent and refuses to accept it. As a result, we have to flip around continuity, narrative coherence, and everything about ideal editing circumstances – focusing on some dumb things like items and the restaurant owner like you say – to give us the same sense of confusion as Sutherland at first glance (especially frustrating when you’re as much of a literalist as I am) and it’s only at the very end – grim and dark as it is – that everything finally begins to piece itself together and we get why the movie has itself presented in every way, which leads to the irony of the ending like you say.

The movie is basically showing how the leads are so concerned with the past that they don’t see what’s coming at them until it’s too late, even with one of them turning out to be psychic, and the editing is the biggest tool the film has to showing us that.

I watched half of Eyes Without a Face the other week while I was home with a fever. I fell asleep toward the middle and have yet to finish it. I thought it looked beautiful and it was delightfully weird. I’m assuming it was a huge inspiration for Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. I loved that movie.

Surprising nobody vaguely familiar with either movie, Eyes Without a Face indeed inspired The Skin I Live In (which I too really liked). Eyes Without a Face gets its props for how well it uses the art of implication – we get some notorious shots of the doctor’s cruelty, but most of it we can just tell has occurred by what’s on-screen and what’s unsaid. I also kind of regret not having Edith Scob’s character in my favorite characters list.

I’ve seen bits and pieces of Ravenous. Mostly I remember an opening scene where shots of soldiers ravenously eating prime rib are intercut with gory battle sequences. I thought that was wonderful.

I ate my own steak dinner unknowingly while catching this flick and let me tell ya, it made me feel sick. That opening scene you mentioned alone makes a guy as carnivorous as me want to put off meat for a little while.

My dad never wanted to watch it though (he found it disgusting) so I’d only catch glimpses of it on STARZ as a child before my dad put on Eddie and the Cruisers or some shit. Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle are both excellent thespians.

Ravenous gets by specifically on how well Pearce and Carlyle play two sides of the morality of cannibalism (and given how brilliant Carlyle is at playing villains and Pearce as heroes, we can guess who is who) and give it a lot more heft beyond the fact that it’s just a pretty rousing and rip-roaring comedy. Its black humor and bloody mania makes me call this the best Tales from the Crypt episode that never happened.

Also, fun fact: Pearce is a vegetarian. Making this movie must have been hell for him.

As for the rest of my honorable mentions, well, a lot of these are simply based on pieces of nostalgic fun for me (Cat People, House on Haunted Hill, The Evil Dead, Bride of Frankenstein) and others on movies that really have no fresh new manner of making horror so asphyxiating and jolting as a genre for me (The Descent, The Phantom of the Opera, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead, Don’t Look Now). I think there’s a lot of movies that take the genre to its most literal aspects of crypts and tombs and phantoms (Black Sunday – I also forgot to put Twitch of the Death Nerve because I’m an idiot), some harkening back to the silent era of melodrama and still finding a couple of moments to actually bring up the first hits of terror to an audience, such as The Phantom of the Opera. Obviously, I feel like I’ve been at points a bit too much of a fan-guy and at points too self-conscious about how this list looks as an overall collection of horror movies, but in the end, I can still look at this list, shake my head only slightly (since I’m so everywhere that this list may eventually prove to be as arbitrary and outdated as last year’s) and say “Yeah, this is my horror canon”.

It probably also shows how much horror I still have to go through.

MIKE’S 25-11 RUNNER-UPS

25. Scream (1996/dir. Wes Craven/USA)
24. The Descent (2005/dir. Neil Marshall/UK)
23. The Cabin in the Woods (2012/dir. Drew Goddard/wri. Joss Whedon/USA)
22. 28 Days Later… (2002/dir. Danny Boyle/UK)
21. Night of the Living Dead (1968/dir. George Romero/USA)
20. Day of the Dead (1985/dir. George Romero/USA)
19. The Devil’s Rejects (2005/dir. Rob Zombie/USA)
18. House on Haunted Hill (1959/dir. William Castle/USA)
17. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984/dir. Wes Craven/USA)
16. The Exorcist (1973/dir. William Friedkin/USA)
15. The Babadook (2014/dir. Jennifer Kent/Australia)
14. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986/dir. John McNaughton/USA)
13. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974/dir. Tobe Hooper/USA)
12. Evil Dead II (1987/dir. Sam Raimi/USA)
11. The Last House on the Left (1972/dir. Wes Craven/USA)

Wes Craven appears three times on this list, which is appropriate. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Craven really is a second-rate horror artist for the most part. He’s made great horror films, but he didn’t make the best ones. The Last House on the Left almost earned a spot in my top 10 though, for it’s unblinking honesty towards savage violence. You can’t just dismiss it as torture porn, not when the perpetrators are this self-aware of the severity of their crimes. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring of all things, Craven peaked with his first film.

I’m actually that kind of guy who actually does dismiss The Last House on the Left as torture porn (whist The Virgin Spring is perhaps one of my favorite movies – TLHotL doesn’t have anywhere near Sven Nykvist’s eye nor any of its spiritual commentary). It’s shot like the cinematographer had a concussion, exploitative especially in its nature (where it was conceived up until the second before they began shooting as a sexploitation film – as a result most of the actors are porn stars and have exactly the sort of acting capability you’d expect) and the fact that it feels like Craven maybe tried to make the low-budget incapable filmmaking (since it WAS produced by Sean S. Cunningham of all people) seem like a benefit in the vein of a documentary is admirable – but it’s not happening in a movie with a hick version of the Keystone Kops, junky kazoos spray across your score, and a shot of a dog reacting to the word “tits” like a bad Disney movie. The notoriously central rape scene is of course the one point of harsh raw nihilism, but the fact that we have a whole lot of bungled movie around it really ruins both the mood of the picture (making it a mess) and whatever attempt Craven made to have a full movie being brutal. This movie feels like one of those toothpaste oreo pranks… the before and after of the rape scene are the outer cookies of the Oreo being deceivingly pleasant in their bootleg way, the toothpaste filling ruins your fucking day.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a classic that did everything right. It had a strong brunette protagonist, created a world where anything could happen and introduced us to the Michael Jordan of boogeymen.

Right?! RIGHT?! I could see myself forgetting about Myers or Voorhees, but never Krueger. Stays in my heart. And tears his way through there.

A lot of people like to shit on Scream, Salim included, because it’s so 90s it makes a part of your soul die every time you watch it. I loved Scream, though, it’s funny, self-aware and manages to be thrilling at the same time. It may seem a bit too on-the-nose today, but it opened the door for many other great self-aware genre films. There wouldn’t be a Cabin in the Woods without Scream.

Actually if we’re going to be praising Craven, I’d like to throw Scream in that mix as well. Because, like you say, I do like to shit on Scream (I didn’t know a lot of people do, that makes me feel less alone), but I guess at once a benefit and part of the reason I shit on it is because of this: Craven is too fucking good at his job. Scream as a picture made and crafted by a guy who cares as much about his work as Craven clearly did all his career is a solid slasher picture. It could get away from its snark (I wish it did) and still be a slasher film. That’s all Craven that makes it hold up that way. Anybody who thinks he lost it needs to see Scream 2’s Sound Studio chase, holy shit, and I like that movie less than Scream.

No no, my problem with Scream is all on Kevin Williamson’s script and smug snark all throughout.

Though, you’re probably right that we wouldn’t have Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or Cabin in the Woods or many other great self-aware horror movies either. How about that Boy Meets World episode “And Then There Was Shawn”? That killer’s look was totally taken by Scream. And it also gave us the 2nd Coming of Slashers. Albeit less likeable because of… the WB.

Other solid Craven pictures include Scream 2, The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and the Rainbow and the hilarious The People Under the Stairs. He also directed Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep.

I LOVE The People Under the Stairs, Music of the Heart (Meryl Streep – Number One Horror Monster) and The Hills Have Eyes is the only Craven movie I hold higher than Nightmare on Elm Street. I’d also throw Red Eye in that zone.

He also was boss enough to really take charge if he either didn’t feel a project was worth his while (Scream TV Series, the Nightmare sequels) or if he honestly didn’t feel he performed to his ability (Scream 3).

R.I.P. Wes. You weren’t the best, but you were a class act.

R.I.P.

As for the rest of your list, it’s also really great. It’s extremely telling to see pictures like Last House, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Devil’s Rejects all in one collective canon. They all are obviously made in a raw manner that feels exploitative, but in the case of Henry – it’s a very telling psychological piece that nevertheless made me feel fucking dirty that I don’t want to watch it again (in a career as full and varied as Michael Rooker’s, it’s my favorite performance of his that we get to at once have this outer emotionless layer, but have moments of delicacy and clear motivation like his killing of Otis or where he talks about his mother’s murder) – and Texas Chain Saw… well, I’ll get to TCM. Hell, we could even throw the DV shot 28 Days Later… in that raw pile, even if it’s more fantastical than the others. 28 Days Later… has a very exhilarating, in the moment feel to it (even it’s narrative doesn’t really catch up except every once in a while when the characters stop running).

Speaking of psychological portraits like Henry (albeit more accessible), we’ve got The Babadook AND The Exorcist both being solid (in The Babadook’s case, MORE than solid) in making us feel just as confused and lost and helpless towards their child as its two leading mother characters played by Essie Davis and Ellen Burstyn. They are my emotional anchors in the picture.

I’m extremely happy to see something as cheesy and fake and fun as House on Haunted Hill being on your list and the amount of easy groupings we can make with this bunch of honorable mentions (LHotL; TCM; Henry for rawness), (Babadook; Exorcist – for parents under stress), (Evil Dead II; HoHH for camp), (Dead films, 28 Days for zombies), (Cabin in the Woods, Scream for meta commentary), all really tells on your tastes and what you respond to in a movie. I fucking love your list.

TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT POST!

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